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Alumna turns heartbreak to hope through volunteer efforts

Friday, January 6, 2012
Alumna turns heartbreak to hope through volunteer efforts
By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant

OU alumna Ashley Lorano's fundraising efforts drew enough support to establish a new orphanage for children in India.
Oakland University alumna Ashley Lorano has a knack for turning heartache into hope. The 24-year-old Sterling Heights native was recognized as a Distinguished Volunteer by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Detroit Chapter for her community service work, which includes mentoring high school students and raising thousands of dollars for charitable causes whose impact transcends national boundaries.

Lorano’s journey began several years ago when her best friend and fellow OU student, Daniella Saveski, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. When Saveski succumbed to the disease in 2009, Lorano channeled her grief in a positive direction and launched her own grassroots charity called Party with a Purpose. Friends and family gathered for a celebration of Saveski’s life, raising more than $5,000 for “Daniella’s Forever Team” in support of Stand Up to Cancer.

"When I started Party with a Purpose, I wanted to make sure that everything I was doing symbolized Daniella in some way," Lorano explained. "I thought Stand up to Cancer was a good choice because it was something Daniella was passionate about."

A year later, Lorano used the party to raise money for Rochester-based Angel House Rescue Orphanage. This event drew even more support, helping generate $11,500 to construct an orphanage in India in memory of Saveski. Lorano said she discovered the initiative online and saw it as an enduring way to carry on her friend's legacy.

"I was really drawn to the work being done for these kids," she recalled. "Daniella loved traveling the world and helping children, so when I learned about Angel House, I just really wanted to be a part of it. I jumped at the chance to establish an orphanage in Daniella's name, and it has turned into a truly amazing opportunity."

Lorano received the AFP Distinguished Volunteer Award for her work.
In early December 2011, Lorano traveled across the world to attend the opening of the facility, which will shelter eight girls and four boys. The household will be led by a local church family – a pastor and his wife and son – who will act as surrogate parents and coordinate ongoing support efforts in the community. Lorano connected with the group while in India and views the arrangement as a perfect match.

“My orphanage happens to be built right next to the church that will continue to support it,” said Lorano. “The house parents are completely in love with these children, and they will continue to do fundraisers to provide for their care.”

For the ceremony, Lorano and her team were clad in purple -- Saveski's favorite color – and presented a framed photo of Saveski, signed by Party with a Purpose attendees. The heartwarming scene was part of "Christmas in India," a faith-based mission trip that saw the opening of six Angel House orphanages to rescue children from widespread poverty and exploitation.

"India’s orphan population is well into the millions," said Lorano. "The orphanages provide a home, a warm bed, a pillow and blanket...something these kids have never had before."

A tireless advocate, Lorano is currently raising funds to add more amenities, including a water well and expanded living quarters. She plans to stay in contact with the children and visit the orphanage as often as possible.

"This experience was more than just raising money for a cause," Lorano said. "I was creating something that will forever be a part of my life in memory of Daniella."

Lorano’s generous spirit has garnered attention from local and national organizations. She received her AFP Distinguished Volunteer Award at the 20th annual National Philanthropy Day Dinner held  at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. Laurie Tarter, vice president and program director of Winning Futures, a nonprofit youth mentoring program, nominated Lorano for the honor.

“Winning Futures is extremely fortunate to have Ashley as a mentor,” Tarter said. “Over a two-year period, she has mentored five students in our program. She is a local champion and the type of leader that we wish more young people had the opportunity to emulate.”

For more information on Party with a Purpose, contact Lorano at For more information on Winning Futures, visit the website at